A commercial isoelectric focusing apparatus for use in microgravity

Johnson, Jerald F.; Dandy, Jonathan S.; Johnson, Terry C.
January 2000
AIP Conference Proceedings;2000, Vol. 504 Issue 1, p574
Academic Journal
A series of studies have tested the possibility that the microgravity environment may be superior to laboratories on earth for several biomedical applications. One such application is isoelectric focusing (IEF). The purpose of our research is to design, build, test, and employ an analytical IEF instrument for use in the laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS) and to demonstrate the advantages of space-based IEF. This paper describes IEF in general, discusses the design considerations that arise for IEF in low-gravity, and presents design solutions to some of the systems under development. Isoelectric focusing is a powerful technique that has applications for both analytical analysis the preparative purification of macromolecules. IEF resolves proteins by net charge separation, in either liquid or semi-solid substrates, where the molecules migrate to their isoelectric point (pI). In earth-based IEF, separation media are usually semi-solids such as polyacrylamide and agarose gels. The matrix structure of these media is used to offset the gravity-induced diffusion and convection that occurs in free solutions. With these effects being greatly reduced, a free solution could be used as a superior media. Because diffusion in liquids is reduced in microgravity (Snyder, 1986), a given electrical field should result in more tightly focused bands. This would allow for the separation of proteins that have very closely spaced pI’s. If superior results are achieved, there are numerous pharmaceutical and genetic engineering companies that would take advantage of this unique development. The design of the Commercial IsoElectric Focusing Apparatus (CIEFA) presents several significant engineering challenges specific to its operation in the microgravity environment. Three difficulties of particular importance are gases generated through electrolysis, temperature control and verification of protein separation. Gases generated through electrolysis must be is...


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